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Battling The Champs

Friday, 11.14.2008 / 12:08 PM ET / Preview
Florida Panthers
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Battling The Champs
The Panthers take on the Wings at the BankAtlantic Center for the first time since 2005. Last year, Florida lost a 5-2 affair in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
By Dave Joseph for

In coach Peter DeBoer’s words, the Panthers play tonight at the BankAtlantic Center against “arguably, the best team in the world.”

The defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings visit the BankAtlantic Center tonight at 7:30 p.m., for what will be the Panthers’ biggest test of the season. Trying to stretch their winning streak to three for the first time this season, the Panthers will play a Red Wings team that is 10-2-3 and an offense that is currently the second-most explosive squad in the league.

And DeBoer made it clear what the consequences could be if the Panthers don’t play a sound, smart game.

“If you don’t show up to play (the Red Wings) – and we talked about it in the morning meeting – this is a team that will make you look really bad and embarrass you,” he said.

Coming off a 4-3 victory Thursday in Tampa, the Red Wings are 7-1-1 on the road this season and have the league’s top-ranked power play both home and away. The roster is a who’s who of All-Stars, including Marian Hossa (8 goals, 13 assists), Henrik Zetterberg (10 goals), Nicklas Lidstrom (10 assists) and Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom.

The Wings are loaded with skill, but they’re certainly not afraid of finishing their checks and banging in the corners and in front of the net.

“For me, watching them on tape, their players, even their skilled players, play the game the right way,” DeBoer said. “They backcheck as hard as they forecheck. They win a lot of puck battles and they have a group of guys who are always around the net and score those goals in those dirty areas of the rink, in the blue paint and around the crease.”

Goalie Craig Anderson, who’s stopped 68 of the last 69 shots he’s faced while beating Anaheim and Tampa, will be in goal. Forward Radek Dvorak, who missed Wednesday’s game with a hamstring, will be back in the lineup. Gregory Campbell, who scored two goals against the Lightning, will be a game-time decision due to a lingering hand injury.

DeBoer said the Panthers continue moving forward and have been helped by the fact he’s been able to skate six healthy defensemen throughout the past two games.

“You see a direct result from our specialty teams,” DeBoer said. “We have fresher defensemen on the ice. The penalty kill is better as a result, our power play is better as a result. Not just the fact we’re scoring some goals, but we’re getting offensive zone time and quality shots. It’s a direct result of being healthy back there and having fresh guys on the ice.”

Goalie Tomas Vokoun, who missed Thursday’s practice, made it through Friday’s morning skate as he continues to improve from minor back and hip issues.

“The back is much better,” Vokoun said. “There’s still a bit of an issue with the hip, but I just have to keep getting treatments and, hopefully, it will get better.”

Vokoun said the problem started with his hip.

“For a couple weeks I had a bad hip and I think it kind of went a little bit into my back,” he said. “It was really hard for me to move (during Wednesday’s morning skate). It was on the same side as the hip…all those things are kind of related. With the hip sore, you try to substitute a little bit with your back muscles when you move… I think (during) that long flight (from California), you really stiffen up and you end up in that sitting position all that time.”

Vokoun said he’ll be ready when its his time.

“We’re playing good, Andy (Craig Anderson) is playing great,” Vokoun added. “This is a team sport and we’re here for winning. It’s a long season and a long haul in how we get judged. I’ll do my work out there (on the ice) and be ready.”




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
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